What It Means to Exclusively BreastFeed your Baby?
Well informed mothers are aware of the WHO directives regarding the exclusive breastfeeding necessity during the first 6 months of the baby`s life. But a lot of times the terms are misunderstood, like for example when it`s believed that the “exclusive breastfeeding” refers only at the fact that the food diversification with solid foods hasn`t happened yet.
A lot of mothers believe that they “breastfeed exclusively” even though they give to their baby water, tea or other fruit juices, but this type of breastfeeding assumes the fact that it wasn`t offered anything else than breast milk to the infant.
If the mother decides to offer to her baby even on teaspoon of water per day during hot days, we cannot talk about an exclusive breastfeeding, but rather about “predominantly excusive breastfeeding”.
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Why Choose to Breastfeed Exclusively during the First 6 Months?
Here are the main reasons for which it`s better to breastfeed exclusively your baby during his first 6 months:
- Breast milk is the only food that the baby needs during the first 6 months, it`s perfect and complete and it will satisfy both the baby`s hunger and thirst. Your child doesn`t need any additional liquid, not even if it`s hot outside because breastfeeding at demand prevents dehydration.
- Your newborn`s organism is very sensitive during his first few months from birth, and breast milk is the only sterile food/liquid that you can offer him. Anything else can put the health of your child in jeopardy and risk contaminating him with various viruses or bacteria. So, by breastfeeding him exclusively you`ll reduce the risk for gastrointestinal infections.
- The baby`s stomach isn`t able to digest anything else than milk during his first 6 months of life.
- Any other liquid or food offered to the baby will automatically mean a smaller amount of breast milk consumed by your baby as well as a smaller nutritional intake. Tea, water or fruit juices “steal” from the stomach`s volume which would otherwise need to be filled with breast milk to allow a good development of the baby.
- Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality because some diseases, like diarrhea or pneumonia, and helps the baby to recover more rapidly if he gets a disease.
- Exclusive breastfeeding is an efficient contraceptive way to prevent certain conditions at the same time, such as: practicing breastfeeding on demand; any time the baby asks for it, no matter how short is the time between the demands; allow 3 hours between the breastfeeding sessions at maximum for both during the day and night.
What`s Recommended to Encourage Exclusive Breastfeeding?
Most of the times, exclusive breastfeeding is prevented even in maternities through the separation of mothers from their babies, by offering glucose and milk powder to the child, or through feeding him on schedule and not on demand.
Afterwards the mother is discouraged to practice this type of breastfeeding through lots of inappropriate advices. That`s why WHO and UNICEF made the following recommendations to support exclusive breastfeeding even immediately after birth and during the first 6 months:
- Starting the breastfeeding process even from the first hour of the baby`s life, because of its importance also known as the “magic hour”;
- Breastfeeding on demand, as often as the baby wants it, regardless if it`s day or night;
- Avoid using feeding bottles, pacifiers or breast protections – accessories that could induce the confusion of a breast and could lead to a breastfeeding failure.
Of course, exclusive breastfeeding might be jeopardized as soon as the mother needs to return to work, that`s why it will be ideal for new mothers to stay at home at least 6 months and take care of their baby.
However, it`s not a certainty that the return of the mother to work will make exclusive breastfeeding impossible; there are a lot of examples of success out there. So mothers shouldn`t gave up on this idea which brings so many benefits to their baby from the start.
It`s important to be understood that exclusive breastfeeding means strictly breast milk, the whole concept losing its meaning if the baby receives water, tea or other juices.